Next week’s BRICS Summit in the South African city of Johannesburg will see President Putin’s personal participation in a symbolic move that heralds Russia’s return to the continent.
The event will also bring together the leaders of the organization’s other four members too, as well as Turkish President Erdogan and a few other distinguished guests, but it’s President Putin’s visit that carries with it a lot of historical weight. The Soviet Union used to be one of the most powerful forces in Africa during the Cold War, but Moscow’s influence drastically waned over the past two and a half decades to the point where there was scarcely any Russian presence there at all the first time that President Putin visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2006.
In the half-decade since his last visit in 2013, a lot has changed across the world with the advent of the New Cold War, but especially in terms of Russia’s newfound role in Africa. Moscow has taken the lead in training the armed forces of the Central African Republic using a handful of its own troops and several dozen private security contractors under the aegis of the UN, thereby helping to stabilize parts of this war-torn country that the rest of the world had written off as a hopelessly failed state. Russia’s renewed relations with some former Soviet partners like Mozambique and Angola are also figuring more prominently in its continental policy, as is its fast-moving friendship with Sudan….